Cuddle cushions with sensors to give the sensation of being wrapped in someone’s arms and water bottles which can tell if drinkers are dehydrated have been suggested to help the elderly.
A kettle that could take a pensioner’s blood pressure as they make their drink and a barcode scanner that could share the contents of the fridge with neighbours to encourage them to share meals are also suggested in a report by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK).
The patent ideas were devised to highlight how the UK’s ageing population opens up a commercial opportunity for companies that can capitalise on bespoke products for this age group including wearable technologies, 3D printing, cloud computing, IoT and smart cities.
Other ideas that made the cut include TV bundles, which could offer a videolink to a friend’s living room on the TV screen so people can feel they are watching with someone to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
However, a spokeswoman for ILC-UK emphasised that many of the inventions in its report are conceptual and dreamt up in a workshop to demonstrate the realms of technological possibility rather than being serious ideas.
The report, Opportunity Knocks, said the over 65s in the UK spend around £2.2bn a week and they could be spending more than £6bn by 2037. The Office for Budget Responsibility projects that the ageing population will result in health spending rising from 6.2 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 to 8.0 per cent of GDP in 2063-64.
It was produced in conjunction with the IET and the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Design Centre and said technological innovation will be vital to improve the lives of older generations and bring down health and social care costs.
Gordon Attenborough, the IET's head of sectors, said: “This report champions the positive impact that technology and design will play in helping us all to live longer, healthier, independent lives.
“However, we acknowledge that the potential of technology has not been fully realised.
“There's so much more that we should achieve through the widespread application of existing and emerging technologies. It's vital that we design and innovate with a broad range of users in mind, wholly inclusive and accessible to all. Achieve that and technology will mitigate the impending costs of an ageing society and deliver the promise it has failed to so far.”
ILC-UK director David Sinclair said: “Technology undoubtedly offers significant potential to help respond to the challenges of ageing. But the opportunity of technological innovation in this area has historically been over-egged and under-realised.
“For us to maximise the potential of new technologies however we need more evidence on what really works and whether it will save money.
“We need regulation which protects consumers whilst not preventing technological innovation. And we need industry to recognise the potential of the older consumer and design for all.”